India's new troop of solar-powered train coaches set off on their maiden voyage from Safdarjung Railway Station in New Delhi last week, as part of the country’s hopes to kick its diesel habit.
The new Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMU) are fitted with 16 roof-mounted solar panels used to power all the electrical needs of the train, such as its lights, fans, electronic display boards, etc. The surplus power generated during peak sunny hours will be stored in a battery system for later use. While the train’s locomotion is still powered by diesel, the use of solar energy could save up to 21,000 liters (4,600 gallons) of diesel every year.
The rooftop system will generate approximately 7,200 kilowatts of energy per year. In turn, this could offset 9 tonnes (9.9 tons) of carbon emissions per coach per year, according to Business Standard. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also going to save the rail network a small fortune.
The project had to use specialized solar panels that lay as flat as possible on the roof. After all, if they were too clunky this would increase drag and actually increase the diesel fuel usage.
“It is not an easy task to fit solar panels on the roof of train coaches that run at a speed of 80 km per hour," Sundeep Gupta, vice-chairman and managing director of Jakson Engineers told Business Standard. "Our engineering skills were put to a real test during the execution of this rooftop solar project for Indian Railways.”
The project is currently using just six trains for a short trial period, however, the aim is to eventually install solar panels and batteries on 250 trains around the area of Kolkata.
Around 23 million people ride the railways in India each day. With over 66,687 kilometers (41,437 miles) of track, it’s the largest rail network in Asia and the fourth largest in the world.
India’s insanely busy railway network is just a small part of the country’s green revolution. Looking towards both the environmental and economic benefits of renewable clean energy, India is desperately trying to shake its record as being one of the world's heaviest polluters.
Another example of this is the government putting forward $6.2 billion to reforest parts of the country, while just last week a community effort saw 66 million trees planted in just 12 hours, breaking their own record set just the year before.